August 2008

Digging through stacks of books while packing up the house I found an old sketch book. Paging through it I found this quote all by itself on a page. I have no idea where I read or heard it but it seemed oddly apropos.

There is no creation without responsibility. Remember Frankenstein?

~ The Devil

(It may be from David James Duncans’ book “The Brothers K”)

Venomous Insects of North Carolina

The people I’m going to meet along the way are one of the big reasons I’m taking this trip. I haven’t even left yet and I’ve been lucky enough to meet the Genes, gotten to know Mary at City Cycle, the KLR community, and most importantly, by reaching out to my family and circle of friends for support I’ve been reminded of how amazing they are. This week I had the chance to meet two more really great folks. I’ve been working in the same plant with them for four years, but our paths didn’t cross until Tuesday when I went down to the machine shop to talk through a problem.

As you diligent readers know, I put new sprockets and a new chain on the bike last weekend. Since these are parts that wear out, I thought it would be a good idea to carry an extra set with me. The front sprocket is small and can go in my spares kit, everyone’s told me that chains are easy to be had all along my rout, so that leaves stashing the big rear sprocket somewhere on the bike. It’s about 12 inches across and if I put it in the wrong place it has points that could tear me up in an accident, so getting it right is very important to me.

After a lot of fiddling around and looking at the bike it became obvious that there was only one place it could go. I have three pieces of luggage, two that attach to the sides and one that sits on top behind the seat. The top case mounts on a metal plate and under that plate there’s about an inch of room. If I can bolt it down there I won’t have to give it another thought till I need it. I could drill trough the mounting plate and bolt it straight on, but I’d rather not have to try and work a wrench onto a nut in that tight little space. (I’m getting tired of struggling with wrenches) So I went down to the machine shop at work to see if those folks had any suggestions.

In my position, I don’t have much call to go down there, so I don’t really know those folks. I walked in at the end of the day and two guys were in the shop leaning on some equipment talking. I told them what I was trying to accomplish and they dove right in. They called it Gov’ment work and this was the sort of stuff they lived for. I just kind of stood back and let ‘em run with it. The solution they came up with was to put threads in two existing holes on the sprocket so I didn’t need a nut for the bolt at all – the sprocket was the nut. A simple, elegant solution to my problem.

mounted sprocket

While I was glad to have the spare rear sprocket tucked safely away, my favorite part of solving the problem was meeting the the machine shop crew. Two really nice guys that seemed to have known each other since they were kids, they couldn’t have been more helpful or funnier. One, the straight man, setting the other up for stories and one-liners, the other with a wit as focused as a chicken that’d gotten into the corn from the still. while we were talking, I noticed they had a collection of big insects stuck to the wall behind the lathe. I had to ask, and after being told they all had been found around the plant, I got this story -
Lathe with bugs

The company we work for is European and there’s always a group from somewhere else training on our machines. In an ordinary day you might hear Finish, Spanish, Polish, French or Mandarin while walking around the coating hall. One of the workers here from Europe with a group training for a few weeks asked about the bugs on the wall. Without missing a beat, J told him that he had had been collecting them so that visitors to the factory would be able to identify some of the local poisonous insects. Euro got all wide eyed and asked “Really?” When it was confirmed by our straight man, Euro hurried out to the hall and brought his whole crew in to see. He started pointing and chattering away and the crews eyes kept getting bigger and bigger. Then they shuffled out shaking their heads, ready to duck at the slightest buzzing sound.

As far as we know the rest of their visit they never ventured outside…



center: offensive bolt

All day Saturday was spent trying to get ONE (1), bolt loose. I wanted to change out the front and rear sprockets and replace the chain before we hit the road. Should be a few hours at most. The bolt picured holds the front sprocket on. Its the first thing you take off to get started – and it would not come loose. I’ll spare you the details, but if you’re interested, heres my cry for help on KLR world.  Its amazing to me that I can be having a problem, post it to a message board and in and hour I have 4 responses from people all over the country. There’s a “Crisis Room” on the board for people having trouble on the road. Knowing that’s available and that people are so responsive gives me a little more confidence on the road.

And speaking of confidence on the road, our SPOT GPS tracking got here last night. I’m setting it up and testing it out. Not only will this allow you to see where we are each day via google maps (I’ll have a link posted when I get everything set up), it will activate emergency services and and notify Team America when we’re in deep dooky. It also offers private search and rescue services up to $100,000. With the cost of fuel as high as it is, that should about cover a helicopter ride or a fleet of binocular laiden balloonists. But more is better – right?

Projects completed this past weekend:

  • New front and rear sprockets
  • New Chain
  • New front and rear brake pads
  • Tool tube upsized from 3 inch PVC to 4 inch
  • All screws on the handle bars upgraded to stainless socket heads
  • Spare parts box nearly completed (I’ll dedicate a page to this when I get it road ready)

I’m bringing my laptop on the trip and I’ve been looking for a compact protective bag for it to travel in. The other night I hit on the idea of making one out of rubber from an old tractor trailer inner tube.

I collected the bits and pieces:

  • An anti-static bag from the folks in I.T. at work
  • Some mini-cell foam left over from outfitting my kayak
  • An old inner tube I got from an unmarked tire shop in South Mills River
  • Rubber cement from Ace Hardware

An on Tuesday night I couldn’t sleep, so I got out the scissors and made this:

Lap-top bag 1

Lap top bag 2

The result is kind of like leather, tough, impact and water resistant and ugly in a way I really like. It’s layered up with the anti-static bag as the inner layer, mini cell glued to the bag and the inner tube rubber cemented as the outside layer. I used an old flat mountain bike tube to go around the edges and opening and cover the transition of all layers. The rubber from the MTB tube is thinner and more pliable.

I’m going to try and make a tool roll out of the inner-tube and I’ll try and document the process better.


Gene shows me where to put the doohickey

I have a LOT to learn about motorcycle maintenance. Before I leave I need to know as much as possible about preventative maintenance, known weaknesses of my bike and what kind of spare parts I should have – and I’m starting from zero. Up until now I’ve been consulting friends, the internet and books, and usually my projects take two or three tries to get right. Thankfuly that wasn’t the case this past weekend.

On Saturday a group of people from a website called KLRworld got together in Hendersonville for a tech day. David, the host, had access to a commercial garage and about ten of us with the same bike rolled out the tool kits for a group wrenching session. With their help I was able to get more done in a day than I could have in a three-day weekend on my own. With Gene as adviser and Mike as go-fer I was able to replace a little part called the Doohickey (it’s really called that) located in the guts of the motor and check and nearly adjust the shims.

For you non-mechanical types shims look like big nickels and help adjust the air coming and going from the pistons. I wasn’t able to change them out because we were racing the the clock and I got tripped. Once we got the top of the motor opened and checked the clearance between the cams and the shims, we decided they needed replacing. Dal Kawa Motorcycles was across the street from the garage and they had what I needed – but they close at 1 on Saturdays. (because really, what guy wants to work on or shop for a motorcycle on a Saturday afternoon?) It was 5 till 1 and I ran over to the shop barley making it under the wire. I picked up 4 of these little metal discs at nearly $10 each and strolled back to the garage. Gene showed me where to drop them in, but I just couldn’t get ‘em to seat down in their place. As it turns out the shop sold me the wrong size. We had no choice but to close the motor back up and save the project for another day. A least now I’ve done it once and will be more comfortable doing it on my own.

Between having a personal mechanical consultant and all the folks stopping by my work area with comments and suggestions, I soaked up a ton of information. And no way I could have done the doo and shims in a day without all the help from the KLRworld crew.

Thanks everyone!!

Pictures from the weekend

We are buried beneath the weight of information, which is being confused with knowledge; quantity is being confused with abundance and wealth with happiness. Leona Helmsley’s dog made $12 million last year… and Dean McLaine, a farmer in Ohio, made $30,000. It’s just a gigantic version of the madness that grows in every one of our brains. We are monkeys with money and guns.

After a little wrestling and waiting for parts, Deseo is back on the road! I got in some great rides Saturday evening, and Sunday. From Mt. Mitchel to the headwaters of the French Broad river, wrenching with Shannon and riding with Geoff and Bobby, it was exhilarating to be rolling again- I didn’t take many, but heres a few photos from the trips-